Thanksgiving 2018: The pop culture we're thankful for

EW gives thanks

As the holidays roll around, we at EW are reflecting on the important things — in pop culture, that is. With Thanksgiving now upon us, we’d like to express how grateful we are for our visits to The Good Place, to register our appreciation for the ladies of Book Club, to say thank u to Ariana Grande for “Thank U, Next.” Read on for the entertainment that’s filling our hearts with gratitude this year.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

In a year full of engrossing documentaries (RBGThree Identical Strangers, Dark MoneyThe Sentence, etc…) the thing I am most thankful for is Won’t You Be My Neighbor, the doc on Fred Rogers and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. In these divisive times, having this film about someone who stood for kindness and unity and inclusivity — while also standing up for something — was truly inspiring. Save us, Fred Rogers! Save us all!!!— Dalton Ross

Love, Simon 

There’s a moment in Love, Simon, immediately after closeted teenager Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) comes out to his friend Abby (Alexandra Shipp), when Abby doesn’t know what to say so she contemplates the silence for just a moment and then simply replies: “Well, I love you.” It’s arguably the truest and most instructive moment in Greg Berlanti’s sensibly-Midwestern gay rom-com-dram, which offered as much a funny, evocative, and at times emotionally nostalgic moviegoing experience as it did a roadmap for treating the ever-widening visibility of gay characters. When someone comes out to you, all you need to say is “I love you.”

Despite a record year of inclusion on television, there’s still a long way to go for LGBTQ representation in Hollywood across the board (and all things considered, coming-out stories of white gay men have received a disproportionate amount of attention while the stories of others in the community have gone wholly untold — a status quo Hollywood must work significantly harder to change). But treasures like this year’s Love, Simon still nevertheless move the needle forward in a way that the LGBTQ community collectively needs, presenting your gay son, brother, friend, neighbor, or acquaintance as every bit deserving of a great John Hughes love story as any of those teen heroes of ‘80s cinema. Berlanti’s sleeper hit was effortlessly diverse, sweetly grounded (even with its fun bursts of fantasy), and not manipulative in the way these stories tend to be, with strong performances only adding to the film’s resonance. Ultimately, what I’m most grateful for is that it’s exactly the kind of movie an older generation wishes had existed when they were younger — a bittersweet but buoyant way of vicariously imagining the happy gay teen years so many generations didn’t get to experience, but feeling a melancholy peace knowing that the next generation will. — Marc Snetiker

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’s Peter Kavinsky

Woah woah woah. This list is not complete without the sensitive jock who stole the internet’s heart this year. That’s right, I’m thankful for the Jeep-driving, hoodie-wearing, yogurt-drinking Peter Kavinsky. Through his love story with Lara Jean, Kavinsky reminded us of what an ideal rom-com boyfriend should look like. At the same time, he also introduced us to new moves — back pocket twirl, anyone?— Samantha Highfill

Asian representation in pop culture

To all the Asian-led pop culture this year — thank you, from a Chinese-American writer who has rarely been this… fulfilled, which isn’t quite the right word. The sensation of finally feeling seen — is there a word for being overjoyed and overwhelmed, relieved and terrified, all at once? Because that’s how I felt when a family made dumplings in a studio film with an all-Asian cast, when a teen love interest drank (and appreciated!) Yakult, when #StarringJohnCho became a reality, when Awkwafina made history in Studio 8H, and when Steven Yeun became the center of attention at a glitzy awards show. This year proved the value of Asian representation, and though I’m afraid of Hollywood backsliding — what if, say, Aloha 2 gets greenlit next year? — for now I’m hopeful and so, so grateful.— Shirley Li

Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson’s breakup

Listen, I don’t wish anybody harm, especially someone like Ariana Grande who has been through more hurt than a 25-year-old should have to endure. But without her whirlwind relationship and engagement to Pete Davidson, we would not have been gifted with “Thank U, Next” — which was not only of the most irresistible pop songs of 2018, but one of the most memorable kiss-offs ever. It launched one of the most clever memes in recent memory (one taught me love/one taught me patience/one taught me pain), set a Wikipedia paragraph full of records, and primed the world for Ari’s “Next” album. — Henry Goldblatt

Ariana Grande’s journey

I quite literally cannot believe that a few short years ago Ariana Grande was the girl licking the donut and who I was not entirely convinced wasn’t an actual baby (seriously, I don’t think she walked for a full year?), and now she is the celebrity I’m most inspired by right now — except for maybe Michelle Obama. Breaking up with Pete Davidson is possibly the smartest thing anyone has ever done besides not getting engaged to him in the first place and I can only hope that one day when it’s my turn to call off a marriage I can do it with the chic-ness of Ariana. — Seija Rankin

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery

Sure people were excited about the Fantastic Beasts sequel, but why watch a wizarding world adventure when you could participate in one? Launched in April by Portkey Games, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is a mobile game that allows the user to experience seven years at Hogwarts while they attempt to find their missing older brother and save the school from curses that are being released from hidden vaults. Sure, you get to compete in duels and chat up younger versions of Harry Potter fan-favorites like Tonks and the elder Weasley brothers, but Hogwarts Mystery is essentially a “tapper” game (meaning you are just waiting for your energy points to build up so you can tap on objects to complete tasks). That latter aspect of the game can be a bit rote, but that’s exactly what makes Hogwarts Mystery a great stress reliever. Plus, new aspects are being added to the game on practically a weekly basis: the recent addition of a magical creatures wildlife reserve — in which you can adopts nifflers, fairies, bowtruckles, and more — is visually stunning… or, as you might say, magical. — Patrick Gomez

Love Island 

If you made it through 2018 without binge-watching Love Island, (and as a result yelling “I’ve got a text!” every time you get the message notification), you’ve been proper mugged off — see, you don’t even know what I’m talking about! The British reality series, which maroons a group of tanned, toned, and Tinder-weary twentysomethings on a Spanish island and gives them the opportunity to “couple up” to varying degrees of success, is no doubt one of the most dazzling television events of the year — and, no, we’re not just thinking about Jack’s teeth. In addition to giving us a whole new vocabulary (“fit birds,” “doing bits,” “cracking on”), the show taught us about the previously unheard-of impact Brexit will have on trees, the real meaning of loyalty, and, in the end, that true love (that not even Casa Amor can bugger up) really exists. #JackAndDaniForeva. All in all, it’s just bloody brilliant television. Do you know what I mean, babes? — Ruth Kinane

Angels in America on Broadway

I’m always grateful for good theater but this stunning revival took things to another level. The entire production was utterly transcendent, a revival for the ages, from its gorgeous score to its electric neon sets to its jaw-dropping use of puppetry and its absolutely stacked cast, every member of which delivered once-in-a lifetime work. I wish there was space to call out every performance here as they were all great, but I’m most grateful for the deeply human, funny, and chilling turn from Nathan Lane which stood in such contrast to Andrew Garfield’s lyrical, no-holds-barred portrayal of Prior that honestly defies description — every moment of his performance is etched on my memory for eternity.

It might seem odd to feel grateful for a two-part, eight-hour play, but that was one of its many gifts – its performances and storytelling so compelling, you scarcely felt the time pass. Written in the early 1990s, its prophetic view of our future is eerie, while it offers a message of empathy, love, and forgiveness that will never grow old but is needed now more than ever. It’s a reminder that we’re fabulous creatures, each and every one. And I’m grateful, always, for More Life. — Maureen Lee Lenker

The Good Fight 

This year I’m thankful for the Christine Baranski-led (and presumably under-watched) CBS All-Access legal drama, which was probably my favorite show of 2018 that wasn’t Atlanta. Like DC Comics’ Mister Miracle (bear with me), it captured how surreal it was to live through this awful and weird year, and Diane Lockhart’s (Baranski) frustration was incredibly relatable and moving. Plus, the show did episodes about the firm finding the fabled “pee tape,” strategizing how to impeach Trump, and taught me what microdosing is. What more could I have asked for! — Chancellor Agard 

Mac’s dance in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is never content to play it safe. Over its 13 (!) seasons, the sitcom has brilliantly pulled off everything from musical episodes to highwire seven-minute-long tracking shots. So maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that, this year, Sunny yet again did something it’s never done before: It made me cry. Granted, not on the first watch. I binged season 13 only after hearing raves of the finale, which is capped by an interpretive dance performance from Mac (Rob McElhenney), who came out as gay in the previous season. Sunny had deftly handled Mac’s sexuality, finding the comedy in it without making fun of it, but here was the moment that the show took it really seriously. The sequence is framed as Mac’s coming-out to his bitter, brutal father, who’s rotting away in prison; struggling to communicate how he feels in words, he decides to try doing so through movement. The result is stunningly moving, played gracefully by McElhenney and Kylie Shea (a professional ballerina), and only turns more emotional on re-watches. It’s fair to dissect the dance for its true meaning, but it hits me hardest as a pure, singular expression of queer identity — and the journey from pain and shame to love and self-acceptance. It’s cathartic. I’m grateful to have it. — David Canfield 

Hugh Grant’s dancing in Paddington 2

Paddington 2 is a perfect movie. I am in no way being hyperbolic when I say that, when it comes to sequels, Paddington 2 is basically The Godfather 2 if The Godfather 2 were a thousand times better. After a heartwarming and impossibly tender full-length film about a small bear dismantling the prison industrial complex, we get yet another gift: Hugh Grant performing an elaborately choreographed routine to “Listen to the Rain” from Follies.

The wonderfully-named Phoenix Buchanan has been locked up for his evil scheme to steal a valuable book (and framing a poor marmalade-loving bear). But the flamboyant actor is still able to fulfill his state dreams now that he has, as he remarks, a captive audience. The number itself is a pastel-hued macaron, but even more than that, it’s also the best takedown of toxic masculinity I have ever seen. Seeing stereotypically “tough” man engage feminine clothing or behavior is often used as a lazy punchline, but not in Paddington. These prisoners kill the musical number, no pun intended. It’s wholesome, pure, and the best thing that’s happened in 2018. — Dana Schwartz

The rescue of Brooklyn Nine-Nine 

It was a long, sad eight hours. On May 10, around 4:30 p.m. EST, Fox canceled Brooklyn Nine-Nine. After five seasons of “title of your sex tape” gags and reminders that Terry loves yogurt, there would be no more ridiculousness from the men and women of the 99th precinct. Fans poured out their pain on twitter, while the cast offered heartfelt thanks to their squad for five years of love. But just when we were all planning to go cry in the bathroom (peace out, homies) because we’d never hear Jake extoll the virtues of Die Hard again… NBC stepped in a little after midnight on May 11 with a 13-episode order (which was later upped to 18) for season 6. For that, I am so very grateful. Thank you, NBC, for saving a show that is both noice and toit. (Noice and Toit — title of your sex tape!)  — Kristen Baldwin

More Brooklyn Nine-Nine 

I am so, so, SO thankful that NBC rescued Brooklyn Nine-Nine from cancellation. The cop comedy is consistently one of the sweetest, funniest, and most thoughtful shows on television, and I certainly wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Captain Holt and his crew of misfits. NINE-NINE! — Devan Coggan

Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette

My favorite pop culture moment of 2018 was the brilliant Hannah Gadsby Netflix special, Nanette. I stood up in my living room and cheered during the transitional moment of her stand up piece. And then I cried profusely as Gadsby boldly exposed her devastating truth of using self-deprecating humor as a psychological shield against the sexism, homophobia, and brutality that defined her life as an artist. No more. Well done. — Michele Romero

Albums evoking the sound of a lost Southern California summer

The late August sunshine beats on your face, the Malibu ocean breeze whisks through your hair and the warm sand sifts through your fingers as the carefree summers drift by, filled with arcade games and drive-thru movie nights. It’s the bygone SoCal summers of the 1980s that The Midnight captures perfectly in their latest album Kids, a dreamy throwback to first loves in the yearning “Lost Boy” and endless horizons of “America 2.” The eighties sojourn can be continued with Timecop 1983’s Night Drive, a cinematic, atmosphere ode to the era with the melancholy “Static” (featuring The Midnight), or a soaring synth-electro melody in “Afterglow.”

For the less nostalgic but still beach-evoking, LANY’s new album Malibu Nights offers an angsty heartbreak record tinged with crashing waves and brisk salt air in singles such as “Thick and Thin” and the dramatic title single “Malibu Nights.” Consider this child of the eighties refreshingly reconnected with a golden sonic era. — Piya Sinha-Roy

Younger and The Bold Type

I’m thankful for two shows that brought literal joy to my summer: Younger and The Bold Type. Besides the fact that both feature smart, well-written characters, have couples that I root for, love triangles I get in invested in, and my city as the backdrop, at the heart of these two shows are wonderful female friendships — and that’s something we can use a little more of on TV these days. Plus: Having some friends and coworkers (finally!) binge these shows gives me an excuse to re-watch along with them. — Robyn Ross

Book Club 

Not only is Book Club fun and raunchy AF with its sexy and saucy Fifty Shades of Grey jokes, but it’s feminist as hell as its mature leading ladies Diane Keaton as Diane, Jane Fonda as Vivian, Candice Bergen as Sharon, and Mary Steenburgen as Carol — BFFs who’ve participated in a book club for years, and are the example of #womensupportingwomen — pursue love, explore their sexuality, and deepen their friendships. It’ll make you laugh and cry, and you better believe it’s the PERFECT plane movie. Not only that, but between this and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, we have quite the Andy Garcia-ssance on our hands — talk about something to be thankful for. — C. Molly Smith


Some Thanksgiving weekends bring real turkeys to the big screen — but for the past two years, we could always rely on FilmStruck to be glorious on the small one. Since WarnerMedia announced that the cinephile’s streaming service would be saying FIN in November, I’ve been bingeing its sublime catalogue, all the while mourning that I’d never get the chance again. I’m grateful for having had such a wealth of world cinema and arthouse classics at my fingertips while the site was active — but even more thankful for the news that Criterion’s unmatched library will find a new home in the spring. For the past two years and for the new beginning ahead, I say merci. — Mary Sollosi


I stopped watching Supernatural around 2012, but this year I decided to come back to it and boy, was that a great decision. Catching up and reconnecting with characters I already loved so much has been really fun. And diving back into the fandom (which is obviously still raging on) has been like coming back home to good friends. I’d forgotten just how stellar the acting is on this show and after 14 years, we’re still getting fresh stories with fantastic writing. I’m grateful to have Sam, Dean, and Cas back in my life and can’t wait to see what comes next. — Melissa Rosenberg

The “Sandman Universe” comics (The Dreaming, House of Whispers, Lucifer, Books of Magic)

The original Sandman comic, written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by a platoon of iconic artists, is quite simply one of my favorite things ever. So while I was overjoyed at the news that Gaiman would be overseeing a new line of comics featuring characters and concepts from the Sandman world, I was also pretty nervous, because how could the new stuff possibly live up to the original?

Thankfully, the new Sandman Universe line is not directly measuring itself against the original series. In fact, the former protagonist Dream is nowhere to be seen in these comics. Instead, The Dreaming focuses on the colorful characters he’s left behind in the titular world of stories (illustrated brilliantly by Bilquis Evely), while House of Whispers allows novelist Nalo Hopkinson to introduce vibrant Caribbean mythology into Gaiman’s universe. Lucifer gives everyone’s favorite charismatic devil the kind of challenge he’s never faced before, while Books of Magic revisits the young-boy-learning-magic trope in our post-Harry Potter world.

This year, I’m thankful for these mind-expanding comics. — Christian Holub

Kristin Chenoweth on Trial & Error

I love a TV character who can’t be bothered to learn anybody else’s name (see: Karen Walker from Will & Grace). The latest incarnation was Lavinia Foster-Peck, the villain at the center of the second season of NBC’s criminally underrated murder mockumentary, Trial & Error. Watching Kristin Chenoweth scream “Lawyer” to her attorney or “Orange Lawyer!” to opposing counsel was one of the year’s biggest joys. Please watch this show. — Henry Goldblatt

Making a Murderer Part 2

Still feeling thankful for Making a Murderer Part 2, which brought the juridical force of nature that is Kathleen Zellner to my attention. Only drawback: It’s been well over a month since I finished watching it and my internal voice still has a Sconnie accent. — Dan Morrissey

“The Dinners of Death”

Back in July, fake film critic Joe Bob Briggs (a.k.a. actual writer John Irving Bloom) hosted a 13-film marathon of movies on the thriller- and horror-streaming service Shudder. The result proved so popular among gore-hounds that it crashed the streaming service’s servers. This Thanksgiving Day, the reliably entertaining Briggs returns with “The Dinners of Death,” another horror genre-heavy marathon featuring movies hand-picked by Briggs, who will also be on hand to interrupt proceedings whenever he damn well feels like it. — Clark Collis

The year of Constance Wu

For those of you fresh on the Constance Wu bandwagon, welcome, we’ve been waiting (we’re still waiting on the trademark for Wu’s Clan). This summer’s smash hit Crazy Rich Asians may have marked the big screen breakout for the 36-year-old actress, but, before delighting audiences as the lead of the history-making rom-com, she has long been our favorite lovingly intimidating mom on Fresh Off the Boat. So whether she’s stalking Stephen King on TV or playing Mahjong on film, I’m a crazy big Wu fan. — Derek Lawrence

Kim’s Convenience

As we head to our family holiday tables to gorge on ungodly quantities of carbs and fervently avoid anything resembling political discourse, I am grateful for the family I wish would be coming to dinner: the Kims. This fictional Korean-Canadian family from Toronto is the focus of the CBC show (now streaming on Netflix) that I so desperately needed while growing up in rural, milk-white America. Not just because I, myself, am Korean, but more because it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen, as a child or an adult. The diversity on this show is virtually unparalleled, which is somewhat remarkable given the central characters’ shared heritage. The program manages to be more colorful than a crayon box via the titular bodega in the form of its endearing and hilarious customers, as well as the ensemble characters who regularly circulate through different aspects of the Kims’ lives. But the heart of this program isn’t just in the amusing situations our beloved family finds themselves in, but rather in the kernels of familial truth that ring true no matter what shade you are or what country you’re from. Appa, Umma, Jung, and Janet are a family that loves as fiercely as it sometimes disagrees, which is hopefully something we’ll all keep in mind over Thanksgiving dinner. — Lacey Vorrasi-Banis

Peter (Rob Delaney) in Deadpool 2

He’s just so pure. We need more Peters in the world today. We also need more Rob Delaney always. — Alison Wild

The Good Place

At the end of 2017, my then-boyfriend introduced me to The Good Place. That relationship didn’t last, but I found something deeper and more meaningful in NBC’s comedy about life, death, and what it means to be a good person. Over the course of this year, the metaphysical and Earthbound antics of Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, Jason, Michael, and Janet have been my televised equivalent of a weighted blanket or a yoga class — but 90 percent more hilarious (and slightly less sweaty). At a time where nearly everything feels more fraught and frazzled, I’ve loved having a show that, at its core, focuses on finding good in the world and in one another. In the Good Place universe, you can be a human trashbag or an all-knowing non-robot or even an actual demon, but if you decide you want to be a better person, you can do just that — or try and fail, but then keep trying (We’re rooting for you, Soul Squad!). It’s a sentiment we could all use a little more of as we head into 2019. Oh, and more Janet. Always more Janet. — Jessica Derschowitz

Dr. Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold) on New Amsterdam 

I am thankful for Ryan Eggold and his dreamy Dr. Max Goodwin on New Amsterdam. In fact, I really am thankful for New Amsterdam in general. In a year of divisiveness, I really want to turn on my TV at the end of the day for some escapism and see people from every different background coming together, helping people, working to find solutions and gosh darn it, solving a problem together — in an hour. — Brittany Kaplan 

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